Miles followed him up the stairs and fetched his tea from the kitchen, to give his restless hands something to do. ‘Edwardian. Well, that’s the thing really… there’s already three of us in this house and another baby on the way. And what with the recession we’ve got enough to do looking after us, never mind providing charity for Roland Rat and his chums.’ Miles took a gamble, correctly, and supplied the laugh himself, infilling the hole in their conversation. The rat catcher’s cheeks twitched a smile. ‘And that’s why we’re glad you’re here. Nip it in the bud before we get overrun.’

Esme had followed the sound of her father’s voice and was now holding onto his legs, thrusting a DVD up towards him. ‘In a moment, sweetie. Let Daddy sort out our little rat-shaped problem with the gentleman here.’ She turned and shuffled back to the front room, whimpering.

Miles put the kettle back on. ‘Are you sure I can’t interest you in a cuppa? We’ve got biscuits?’

‘No, really I’m fine.’

‘And I must show you outside as well,’ said Miles.

‘Not sure we need to see outside.’

‘Really, it won’t take a moment. I think I know how they’re getting in.’ Miles was already pulling back the bolt on the side door. There would be a detailed inquisition, once Morven got home. It was important to be proactive, to demonstrate some leadership. Stepping down the three, roughly rendered steps, he turned to check the man was following. ‘This loose step, you see,’ said Miles, stepping into the garden to allow the man to see. ‘That could easily lead down to that hole in the cellar.’

The man took two steps down the stairs and pulled the door closed behind him. It thudded shut. He paused, then turned back and began pumping the handle, which turned limply in his grip. ‘You can get back into the house, I hope?’ he said.

Miles stepped up to the door to try it himself, as if his own touch would somehow persuade it to open. He looked along the red brick walls of the house, as if the answer somehow lay in the fissures in the rendering, at the same time feeling around the empty cotton pockets of his jogging bottoms. ‘No,’ he said, quietly. ‘No, I can’t get back in.’

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One Response to “Control”

  1. October 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm, Pauline said:

    Loved it – perfect description, nothing superfluous and I moved with it right to the end. Felt helpless on the father’s behalf. Entirely plausible.
    What happened?


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